A Ngati Porou contingent travelled to Government House, Wellington recently to support the official launch of the new $50.
The new note like the old $50 features Sir Apirana Ngata and the front of the wharenui at Porourangi Marae, Waiomatatini but has a fresh burst of colour, better image definition and world-first security additions including a holographic window, a colour-changing bird, a puzzle number and raised ink.
Governor General Jerry Matarae unveiled the $50 with the new $20 and $100 on April 11.
The new $5 and $10 were launched in November.
Mr Matarae said Sir Apirana Ngata's image on the $50 note acknowledged his profound and lasting political, social, cultural, and economic contribution to Aotearoa, New Zealand.
"His image also serves to remind us of the importance of our bicultural roots and of the links between the past, our present and our future."
Sir Apirana's great-great granddaughter Donna Cowdery was delighted to see the new likeness of her famous ancestor.
"It's really inspiring, it makes you feel proud to have that sort of heritage and ancestry behind you," she said at the launch ceremony.
Ngati Porou pakeke Morehu (Boycie) Te Maro from Tikapa and Eru Paenga from Te Horo said it was a “massive” honour to be invited to the ceremony and share the special day with members of Sir Apirana Ngata's whanau.
Mr Te Maro says the new money should be framed and hung up on the wall.
“It looks like a work of art and such a waste to be hidden in wallets and pockets.”
Mr Te Maro and Mr Paenga have fond childhood memories of Sir Apirana visiting their school at Ruatoria when he was home from Wellington.
“He would come to the school and tell a few tales and sing songs.
He was a gentle and caring man who inspired the people,” said Mr Te Maro.
Mr Paenga remembers Sir Apirana being a “no muck around” type-of-person.
“He would always give clear and concise intructions to those of us working on the construction of Uepohatu Marae. My job was preparing the kao kao for the tukutuku panels.”
Mr Te Maro says it was nice to see Maori art and te reo Maori featuring on the new currency.
“The kupu Te Putea Matua, which means Reserve Bank, is on the front and Aotearoa on the back of each note along with the poutama design from our tukutuku art and other symbolic Maori motifs,” said Mr Te Maro.
Reserve Bank of NZ head of currency Brian Hayr said the new Canadian made $20, $50 and $100 bills, will begin circulating from May 16.
Mr Hayr said New Zealand switched from paper notes to polymer notes in May 1999 and that the new money was made in Canada.
Both the old and new notes are legal tender.
Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata was a prominent leader of the 20th century.
He was born in July 3 1874 at Te Araroa to Paratene Ngata and Katerina Naki from Waipiro Bay.
Educated at Waiomatatini Maori School, Te Aute College and Canterbury College (Canterbury University), Sir Apirana beacme the first Maori graduate from a New Zealand University.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1893 from Canterbury and in 1897 gained his LLB (law) in Auckland.
For 38 years Sir Apirana was a Member of Parliament and the Minister of Maori Affairs for six of them.
He was called on at times to act as Deputy Prime Minster.
In 1927 he was the third Maori to be knighted.
Sir Apirana died in 1950 at the age of 76.
His list of skills and achievements are extensive.
Sir Apirana was an expert in tribal lore, an inspirng orator, superb debater and hard worker.
He was a fund-raiser extraordinaire, Maori social, economic and cultural champion, teacher, poet, pioneer of audio recording, promoter of Maori arts, music, broadcasting and performance, supporter of education, a scholar, author, farmer, developer of Maori farming and land reforms, churchman, businessman, politician, builder of whare, supporter of Maori sport, and father of the Maori Battalion.